Trina Solar Q4 2006 Earnings Call Transcript

Feb.15.07 | About: Trina Solar (TSL)
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Trina Solar Ltd. (NYSE:TSL)

Q4 2006 Earnings Call

February 15, 2007 8:00 am ET

Executives

Crocker Coulson - President, CCG Elite IR

Jifan Gao - Chairman and CEO

Andy Klump - Director of Business Development

Sean Shao - CFO

Analysts

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

Tien Yu Sieh - Merrill Lynch

Raymond Zhao - Merrill Lynch

Andrew Clarke - Tiedemann Global

Presentation

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Trina Solar Limited Fourth Quarter Earnings Call. My name is Tulisha and I will be your coordinator for today. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. We will facilitate a question-and-answer session towards the end of this conference. (Operator Instructions). As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes.

I would now like to turn the call over to your host for today, Mr. Crocker Coulson. Please proceed, sir.

Crocker Coulson

Thanks a lot. Good morning and good afternoon to everyone depending on which time zone you are in, and welcome to Trina Solar's fourth quarter and fiscal year 2006 earnings call.

With us today on the call are Trina Solar's Chairman and CEO, Mr. Jifan Gao; the company's Chief Financial Officer, Sean Shao; Director of Business Development, Andy Klump; and Director of Sales and Marketing, Arturo Herrero.

Before I turn the call over to Mr. Gao, I would like to remind our listeners that in this call, management's prepared remarks do contain forward-looking statements, which are subject to risks and uncertainties, and management may make some additional forward-looking statements in response to your questions. Therefore, the company claims the protection of the Safe Harbor for forward-looking statements those provided in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ from those discussed today, and therefore we refer you to a more detailed discussion of these risks and uncertainties in the company's filings with the SEC.

In addition, any projections as for the company's future financial performance represent management's estimates as of today, February 15, 2007. Trina Solar assumes no obligation to update these projections in the future due to changing market conditions. For those of you who are unable to listen to the entire call at this time, we are going to make a recording available via webcast, and that will be there for 60 days at the Investor Relations section of Trina's website, which is at www.trinasolar.com.

With those formalities out of the way, it's now my pleasure to turn the call over to Trina Solar's Chairman and CEO, Mr. Jifan Gao and the company's Director of Business Development, Mr. Andrew Klump, who will be translating for Mr. Gao.

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Jifan Gao

[Translated]. Thank you, Crocker. Welcome everyone, and thank you for joining us today.

In our first earnings conference call as a public company, we are very pleased to report a solid fourth quarter to complete a year of many important accomplishments for Trina Solar, and our quest to become one of the world's leading solar PV companies.

During 2006, we made significant progress towards becoming a fully vertically integrated PV company. Next, we also increased our solar PV product capacity. We also expanded and diversified our customer base. Fourth, we also strengthened our management team. We also delivered record revenues and profits and completed our very successful IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.

As we enter 2007, we are very excited with the opportunities ahead of us for delivering positive results and creating value for our customers and shareholders for many years to come. We also look forward to reporting on our progress pre- quarter during our earnings conference call. We take our responsibilities as a public company very seriously, and we will make every effort to establish professional, timely, and transparent dialogue with the investment community.

Andy Klump

Now, that I've completed translating Chairman Gao's comments, I would like to spend a few minutes discussing Trina Solar's past business performance in more detail.

As Mr. Gao mentioned, Trina Solar delivered record financial results for the fourth quarter and for the fiscal year 2006 as we increased our module production capacity and expanded our customer base. During the year, we benefited from a strong demand for solar modules as a number of governments introduced incentive programs to accelerate the adoption of solar energy in Europe. In addition, we have benefited from increased public awareness and concern for the environment, in general, and global warming, in particular. By addressing the growing need for environmentally friendly renewable energy, Trina Solar has been able to grow its top and bottom lines very rapidly.

The year 2006 highlights include the following record results. Total net revenues increased 319.8% in 2006 to $114.5 million. Operating income increased 296% in 2006 to $16.9 million. Net income from continuing operations increased 309.1% in 2006 to $13.2 million. We shipped 27.4 MW of solar modules in 2006, up from 6.8 MW in 2005.

In addition to the favorable market environment, Trina Solar's outstanding financial performance can be attributed to a solid execution of our strategy in a number of important areas of our business. During the year, we expanded our solar module manufacturing capacity to 75 MW in December 2006, up from 11.7 MW at the end of 2005. We expect to add an additional 75 MW of solar module capacity during the current year, bringing our total module capacity to 150 MW by the end of the fourth quarter 2007.

We also made progress towards becoming a fully vertically integrated solar PV manufacturer by starting up the production of monocrystalline wafers in March of 2006, and completing the construction of our 50 MW solar cell manufacturing building in December.

In connection with the startup of our cell manufacturing facility, we entered into a technical corporation agreement with Q-Cells, the largest independent solar cell manufacturer in the world, to help accelerate our learning process as we ramp up our production during the first part of 2007. The commercial production of solar cells is scheduled to start at the beginning of the second quarter of 2007 and it is expected to reach on 150 MW of capacity by the fourth quarter of 2007. The well-publicized shortage of polysilicon feedstock and consequent rise in the spot price of this important raw material raised concern in the investment community as to the sustainability of Trina Solar's profitable growth.

During 2006, we moved to secure important medium-term polysilicon supply contracts of 1- to 3-year duration at attractive prices to mitigate that risk of rising prices. The company has renewed and expanded its medium-term contracts, and as of this announcement, we have secured over 80% of our 2007 and 50% of our 2008 supply requirements respectively. Most of these medium-term contracts are with polysilicon manufacturers, semiconductor manufacturers, and silicon reclamation companies. More recently, we announced important long-term contracts with Wacker Chemie and DC Chemical to secure an important part of our high-quality polysilicon supply requirements to support our long-term growth plans.

In addition to securing long-term supply of high-quality polysilicon, we will continue to leverage our proprietary know-how and use of equivalent material for the balance of our feedback requirements. This gives Trina Solar distinct cost advantage vis-à-vis our competitors.

On the market front, we expanded our geographic reach by successfully pursuing sales opportunities in Spain and Italy, in addition to growing our strong presence in Germany, which remains our largest market. We have closed the year 2006 with 30 customers.

The geographic breakdown of our sales for the year was 44% Germany, 42% Spain, and 7% Italy. By comparison, during 2005 Germany accounted for 86.5% of our sales and we only had 16 customers. We have doubled our customer portfolio, introducing new important customers in Germany and in new countries such as Spain, Italy, and The Netherlands.

During 2006, we also strengthened our management team to build on Trina Solar's early achievements and to help us operate effectively as a public company. A number of seasoned professionals from leading global companies with many years of experience in their areas of expertise joined our team in the areas of finance, sales and marketing, technology, and business development.

Finally, we completed our successful initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange of 5,810,300 American Depositary Shares that included the exercise of the underwriter's over-allotment option of 510,300 ADSs at a price of $18.50 per share. We raised approximately $87.2 million in net proceeds in our initial public offering after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and other listing expenses.

As we entered 2007, we continue to see multiple drivers supporting the rapid growth and demand for solar power, including economic growth and rise in income levels in emerging economies and in China, the need to improve global energy security by diversifying energy resources, as well as an increasing concern for the environment.

Our IPO provides with the capital to execute on our business strategies, including completing our vertically integrated manufacturing capability, expanding capacity, and pursuing large scale production to achieve grid parity cost structure and improve the competitiveness of solar energy vis-à-vis establish alternate energy resources.

Now, I would like to turn the call over to our CFO, Sean Shao.

Sean Shao

Thank you, Andy. We were very pleased with our fourth quarter results. Our net revenues in the fourth quarter of 2006 were $38.8 million, an increase of 19.8% sequentially and 144.3% year-over-year. The sequential increase was due to higher demand for solar modules, which was partially offset by a decline in average sales price.

Total shipments in ASP were 8.98 megawatts and $3.86 respectively in the fourth quarter of 2006 compared to 8.01 megawatts and $4.04 ASP respectively in the third quarter of 2006. Sales to customers in Europe continue to generate almost all of the total net revenues in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Our gross profit in the fourth quarter of 2006 was $9 million, an increase of 6.3% sequentially and 155% year-over-year. Gross margin was 23.3% in the fourth quarter of 2006, down slightly from 26.2% in the third quarter of 2006 and up from 22.3% in the fourth quarter of 2005. The sequential decline in gross margin was mainly due to lower ASP.

Operating expenses in the fourth quarter of 2006 were $3.2 million, a decrease of 18.5% sequentially and an increase of 262% year-over-year. The sequential decrease was due to professional fee accrual recorded in the third quarter of 2006 related to 20-F filing for the year ended December 31, 2006. And the annual increase was due to higher selling expenses and the higher general and administrative expenses as well as the increased investment in the research and development capabilities to support our vertical integration and profitable growth objectives.

Depreciation was $0.4 million for the quarter and $1.4 million for the year. Our operating income in the fourth quarter of 2006 was $5.9 million, an increase of 27.3% sequentially and 120% year-over-year. Operating margin was 15.1% in the fourth quarter of 2006, up from 14.2% in the third quarter of 2006 and down from 16.8% in the fourth quarter of 2005.

The interest expense was $1.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2006 compared to $0.4 million in the third quarter of 2006 and $0.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2005. The increase was due to an increase of the short-term borrowings in order to support our growth.

Our effective income tax rate in the fourth quarter was 10.7% compared to 16.2% for the same period last year. Our net income from continuing operations for the fourth quarter increased 110.5% year-over-year to $4.4 million compared to $2.1 million in the comparable period in 2005. The net income was $4.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2006, an increase of 18.3% sequentially and 110% year-over-year.

Now, turning to the balance sheet. As of the year-end, we had $93.4 million in total cash and short-term investments, $109.7 million in working capital and $76.5 million in short-term and long-term debt.

During the quarter, we raised $86.2 million in net proceeds from the initial public offering of approximately 5.81 million ADS. We expect to use the proceeds of this offering, mainly to expand our capacity and purchase silicon material. Shareholders' equity ended the year at $157.2 million and our debt-to-equity ratio stood at 0.6 at year end.

Inventories ended the fourth quarter at $32.2 million, with inventory days at approximately 86 days. Accounts receivables days were approximately 43 days in the fourth quarter.

Our capital expenditure for the current quarter was approximately [$27 million] for the year. For 2006, the CapEx were at approximately 38% of revenue.

Coming off a very successful year where we achieved a record revenue and profitability and made solid progress in the execution of our strategy, we expect our strong performance to continue in 2007. We foresee the demand for solar power to be strong, driven by the government support in our existing markets and by adoption of subsidies and feeding tariffs in other regions of the world, including China.

For 2007, Trina Solar expects total net revenues in the range of $270 million to $300 million and net income in the range of $34.5 million to $36.5 million. Our revenue forecast takes into account a 9% to 10% decline in module ASP for the year. In addition, the company anticipates total shipments in the range of 75 megawatts to 80 megawatts for the full year 2007. Now, I would turn the call back over to Andy for some closing remarks.

Andy Klump

Thanks Sean. In the next several quarters, we intend to improve our cost structure and counter the high cost of silicon by utilizing a portion of the proceeds from our IPO to complete our vertical integration, secure long-term supply of polysilicon material at affordable prices, and increase our scale. In addition, we plan to broaden our customer base by targeting medium-size companies through our own sales channels in addition to distributors and wholesalers.

And finally, we plan to expand our geographic footprint by increasing our presence in the existing markets such as Spain and Italy, and by entering new market such as United States. We are very pleased with our performance in the fourth quarter and for the financial year 2006.

As we move into 2007, we remain very excited with the opportunities ahead to create value for our shareholders, customers, and employees as we execute our vertically integrated strategy, improve our cost structure, and expand our global reach. Many exciting achievements have contributed to us being here. With that, let's open the floor to questions. Operator?

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions) And our first question comes from the line of Rob Stone with Cowen and Company. Please proceed.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

Hi, guys. Congratulations on the strong finish to the year.

Andy Klump

Thank you.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

I wonder, Sean, if you could just provide a little more color on the outlook for production in Q1? In the press release you have a power shutdown that took place, can you give us some sense of what the volume or revenue range might be for the first quarter?

Sean Shao

The capacity for 1Q is going to be built on the basis of the 4Q capacity, at 75 megawatts of the module capacity. In respect of your question to power upgrading, basically I think this is going to affect us for approximately 10 to 11 working days, but it overlaps the Chinese New Year holiday. So if you look at the number of days, we estimate that it would affect us approximately 2 megawatts of the production.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

And can you comment on the gross margin trend, going into the first quarter, are you expecting further pricing? Or will it be other factors that might lose the margins one way or the other in the first quarter?

Sean Shao

We basically provide guidance for the year 2007. In respect of specific information for the gross margin on 1Q, I would say that you would look at the gross margin of the 4Q and factoring the rising silicon material prices, I think that probably would give you an idea of how the gross margin in 1Q would look like.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

Okay. Final question on the outlook, I know it wasn't in the prepared guidance, but can you say what your effective tax rate will be for this year?

Sean Shao

At this moment, the company is still waiting for the final documents to be issued by the provisional tax authority. The company basically verbally received the information that is going to have a tax benefit. In specific reduction of the percentage of the tax, we have to receive the document to be sure that how much of the tax is going to be effective [in '07].

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

So, in terms of the range of potential outcomes, you must be assuming some tax rate in the net income guidance that you gave for the year?

Sean Shao

At this moment, we know that the tax rate is going to be below the effective tax rate of 2006 for sure, but in respect of the exact percentage reduction, I will provide this news to the public once I receive the documents.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

Okay. A question for Andy, talking about the silicon supply situation for this year and next, you got 80% plus lined up for this year?

Andy Klump

Correct.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

What are the sources that you hope to line up to makeup the balance of your requirements for this year?

Andy Klump

As I mentioned, we have over 80% secured right now in signed contracts. There are three different sources that are providing those figures. The first is polysilicon manufacturers, second is semiconductor companies, and the third is silicon reclamation companies. So, right now, we're going to fill out the remaining balance of 20%. We intend to continue to use those three channels to fill the balance.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

Okay. A final question on silicon, there has been discussion in the recent weeks regarding the ability to blend metallurgical grade. Given the fact that you already have expertise in blending a variety of types of materials in making ingots, have you done any work on that metallurgical grade or is that a potential source of incremental material for you in the future?

Andy Klump

We haven’t commented publicly on any developments for metallurgical grade silicon at this point.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

And our next question comes from the line of Tien Yu Sieh with Merrill Lynch. Please proceed.

Tien Yu Sieh - Merrill Lynch

Hi. I just wanted to clarify a couple of points. Can you just update us on what the depreciation was for the quarter or for the full year? And also, could you make any comments on the cash flow profile that you expect for '07?

Sean Shao

In respect of the depreciation for the quarter, the depreciation plus amortization is approximately $700,000 for 4Q 2006.

Tien Yu Sieh - Merrill Lynch

And for the full year it was?

Sean Shao

For the full year it was approximately $1.4 million, for the full year 2006.

Tien Yu Sieh - Merrill Lynch

Right.

Sean Shao

And to respond to your question about the cash flow related to the operating activities for 2007, we are looking at a negative operating cash outflow of approximately $45 million to $50 million plus. Most of this outflow is related to the purchase of the silicon materials.

Tien Yu Sieh - Merrill Lynch

Okay.

Operator

And our next question comes from the line of [Raymond Zhao] with Merrill Lynch. Please proceed.

Raymond Zhao - Merrill Lynch

The question is for Sean. The first question, I am not quite sure, I heard some background of -- there is a puppy there? Is that right? Some sound.

Sean Shao

No, not from here.

Raymond Zhao - Merrill Lynch

Okay. That's fine. And probably this is a mini conference call for some. All right. And the second question is about your competitive edge; compared to obviously your rivals such as the famous one Sunpak. Could you give some details there?

Sean Shao

I think the Sunpak is a great company. No question about that. But I think that we are a different type of company. In this company, we started the module production, and then we started the ingot production, and wafer production, and finally we are getting to the cell production to integrate all the value chains of this PV product. But I think Sunpak used to be mainly a cell producer. And now, of course, they are quickly expanding into the module production. So, I think the way we do business is different.

Raymond Zhao - Merrill Lynch

What's the difference?

Sean Shao

Basically, the business model is different. But apparently, we are also very different that we are very small and they are very big.

Raymond Zhao - Merrill Lynch

All right. And the next question is for, I am not sure if Mr. Gao, the founder is available.

Sean Shao

Yeah, yeah.

Andy Klump

Yes he is.

Raymond Zhao - Merrill Lynch

Okay. Can I start speaking a little bit in Chinese? I came from Changzhou too. What's your five-year plan?

Jifan Gao

[Translated]. Okay. So the first point our Chairman, Gao like to make is that, by 2010 through our hard work, we aim to lower our cost basis such as our module cost. When you use our modules to produce electricity in some areas of the world, we'd like to be able to reach grid parity. And of course, the way we are going to approach that is, of course, expand our scale as well as lower our cost basis.

Raymond Zhao - Merrill Lynch

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

And now our next question comes from the line of Andrew Clarke with Tiedemann Global. Please proceed.

Andrew Clarke - Tiedemann Global

Hello, can you hear me?

Andy Klump

Yes, we can hear you just fine.

Andrew Clarke - Tiedemann Global

Okay, sorry. Just real quick, I know I kind of sound like a broken record on this, but can you maybe explain more in detail the relationship or the future relationship you contemplate having with global players who are particularly like Q-Cells, which has been in the news with you just in terms of like another questionnaire asked about the technology that they are investing in? And maybe how that pertains to you? And just in the future, it looks like success globally is going to depend more and more on being part of maybe these global alliances? And if you can just comment a little bit about how that relationship is going to work out in the future?

Andy Klump

Yes Andrew. This is Andy. I'll comment on that. First of all the agreement with Q-Cells, as we mentioned, we do have an 18-megawatt agreement with them where we're providing our high-quality wafers to them, and they are processing those in high-efficiency cells. We've been working with Q-Cells for quite sometime and are very pleased with that partnership. And so for 2007, we decided to enter into a deeper partnership with them. At the same time, they agreed to work with us on helping us ramp up our cell lines because they recognized that we are becoming a fully vertically integrated company, and they are willing to offer some of their technology know-how and expertise to help us ramp up our cell lines.

So, we really appreciate that partnership. We do feel that this is a partnership where we help them scale their facilities by giving them so many wafers for 2007 and they in turn are helping us. Now, understand too that we have our own cell line experts, Dr. Mohan Narayanan, who has over 18 years of experience with cell lines, previously was with BP Solar. He is leading up our cell team, and we've also have a very strong team with his group that really has the expertise to help us reach our levels of efficiency that we expect. But at the same time by having Q-Cells as our partner, we are allowed to expand and do this in the timeframe that we expect.

Now to your second question, we feel very strongly that we're very global international company. In our entire company, we have about eight or nine different nationalities represented. I think that’s what differentiates us from a lot of other companies. So, I think for us Trina Solar in the long run is an international company. We will continue to strike international partnership with other leaders. As you know Wacker is the number two polysilicon manufacturer in this industry, and we are very proud to have that partnership. We see the DC Chemical partnership as well. So, I think you can expect that we will continue to take an international angle to our business execution.

Andrew Clarke - Tiedemann Global

Okay. Thanks a lot Andy.

Andy Klump

Thanks Andy.

Operator

And now our next question comes from the line of Tien Yu Sieh with Merrill Lynch. Please proceed.

Tien Yu Sieh - Merrill Lynch

Hi. I was wondering if you would might make some comments on pricing going into the first half of the year? It looks like the achieved module prices in the fourth quarter were pretty firm. Can you comment first on the outlook for 1Q and 2Q in terms of pricing?

Sean Shao

Is Arturo online? Okay. This is Sean. I will respond to this question. As we stated in our guidance for the year 2007, we believe that the ASP may experience a decline in the range of 9% to 10%. And then, the other thing I need to comment is that we all are aware that the seasonality plays a role in the fluctuations of the ASP. So, we believe that the 2Q and 3Q may reflect a stronger ASP compared to the 1Q and the 4Q.

Operator

And our next question comes as the follow-up question from Rob Stone with Cowen and Company. Please proceed.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

Sean, a couple of questions, more questions related to uses of cash this year. Can you comment what the capital expenditures will be to increase your capacity to 150 megawatts? And also, you mentioned the operating cash consumption for silicon; can you put a figure on the silicon piece please?

Sean Shao

Rob, I think the expected capacity expansion for the year 2007 was built on top of the 75 megawatts by the end of 2006 to 150 megawatts by the end of 2007. With that, we anticipated that approximately $80 million to $100 million of the CapEx may be involved during the year 2007. Sorry, what was your second question?

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

It was how much you are going to use cash for silicon pre-payment this year?

Sean Shao

Yeah. I think when I was responding to a previous question to Tien Yu, I think we estimated that the potential cash outflow related to the operating activities will be approximately up to $50 million plus. I think here the major uncertainty out of that is related to entering into long-term silicon material contracts, which typically would require a down payment. So, that really is the major uncertainty, which may reduce or increase this cash outflow.

Rob Stone - Cowen and Company

Okay. That's helpful. Thanks very much.

Sean Shao

You're welcome, Rob.

Operator

(Operator Instructions). And there appears to be no additional questions at this time. I would now like to turn the call back over to the management for any closing remarks.

Crocker Coulson

On behalf of the entire Trina Solar management team, we want to thank you for your interest and participation in the call. If you have any other questions or interest in discussing with Mr. Gao or Sean, please let us know. So, thanks again for calling in. I think this concludes Trina Solar's 2006 fourth quarter earnings conference call.

Sean Shao

Thank you.

Operator

This now concludes your presentation. You may now disconnect and have a wonderful day.

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